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Nudists in Bilbao can now go for a dip* in the swimming pool without having to worry about strange looks from other bathers. The first pool in the Basque Country - the second in the Spanish state after Barcelona - to allow nude bathing opened its doors to nudists last month in the municipal sports centre in Artxanda. At the moment, bathing times for nude swimmers are very restricted: the last Sundays in March, April and May between six and seven o'clock in the evening. The timetable may be altered after summer, depending on the success of the idea. The Euskal Naturista Elkartea - Basque Naturist Association - is the group behind the initiative. Spokesperson Jesus Iglesias said, "With this agreement we have avoided problems from other users and it does not need public funds." The group also considers that this is a first step on the way to making naturism natural and acceptable socially. People who want to swim at these times will be asked to show a naturist card or temporary pass. If they do not have these, they will be given a pass, for which they have to give their identity card. Admission* prices to the swimming pool are the same as on other days. "Members have free access, and non-members have to pay the usual price." One of the reasons for choosing Artxanda is that the swimmers cannot be seen from outside. Press* cameras were not allowed at the opening session. (I)     Bilbao is in vogue again. The tremendous success of its titanium plated Guggenheim has not only attracted tourists, but places for them to spend their money, But not just bars, restaurants and hotels. The centre of Bilbao is fast becoming a golden mile of luxury shops. Loewe have been there since 1961; however the newest additions arrived last year, Lotusse in November, and the American firm Sebago. Others who have located in the centre in recent years include Ermenegildo Zegna and Purificacion Garcia in 1998, The year before, Roberto Verino, Sahza and Adolfo Dominguez's second shop set up* business there, and others such as Gucci, and Cerutti can also be found in the golden apple, another name for the area. Why have these stores* have come to Bilbao? The first reason is that since the opening of the Guggenheim, the Basque Country, and in particular Bilbao, has become known abroad for something more than politics and ETA. Secondly, because of the revitalisation of the economy and infrastructure. And thirdly, as Angel Torres, manager of Zegana says, "The people have very good taste and lots of class." (I)  



   Eighty percent of trees in Bizkaia -covering a total surface area of 80,000 hectares - are pine insignis. Although the provincial council offers 85% grants to plant indigenous varieties, the important timber* industry in the province means that the vast majority of trees planted are not native species.
  Having said that, the council
   intends to spend 1,700 million pesetas this year repopulating forests with native species. 2,500 hectares will be planted with beech, oak, chestnut, ash and other types of tree. This means that the number of leaf-bearing trees will exceed 15 million. The number of native trees in Bizkaia has doubled in the last ten years. (E)


Internet is gradually being introduced in schools throughout Bilbao. The municipal company Cimubisa is in charge of an ambitious plan with a total budget* of sixteen million pesetas plus two million annually. Sixty two schools are involved. A twenty hour course will train teachers how to use the necessary programmes. The council hopes that all schools will be connected by the end of this month. Once completed, Cimubisa wants to start the Bilbo Gazte Sarea program, which will link schools with the youth information centre, via the net. (E)

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